Thursday, January 26, 2012

Could Prince Fielder have been a Dodger?

According to a report from Jon Heyman of, that would be a yes.

Heyman reported today that the Dodgers were very much the "mystery" team that emerged in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, making an offer of seven years and $160. There would've been an opt-out clause after four years, in which he could've taken his talents to the American League to DH if his skills declined.

What prevented this deal from happening? One man: Victor Martinez. The second he went down with a torn ACL, the richer Tigers jumped in with a mammoth nine-year, $214 million deal that obviously blew away the competition. Goodbye, LA; hello, Detroit. And who can blame him?

This is obviously an interesting story for a couple of reasons. One, it showed that the Dodgers, despite slashing payroll to around $90 million this season (low for a big-market franchise), were willing to make a play on a major free agent. Frank McCourt gave his blessing for this deal, which was pretty much his only option. Think about it: would he have dumb enough to say no to this and have word get out? Talk about being Public Enemy #1! Even he's not that stupid.

The second interesting part is that Fielder was willing to take this deal and join a team that's not as good as his old one. Matt Kemp is a stud, Andre Ethier could be, and that's about it. I know money talks, but it's not like he didn't have offers from other good teams, such as the Rangers. The arrival of a new owner in April certainly helps in that the future isn't total bleak.

Who know what could have been, as the Tigers now get the mighty slugger. Maybe the Dodgers will be happy in the long run that they didn't get Fielder, as big guys like him have a tendency to break down faster. Still, watching Kemp and Fielder in the middle of the order would have been nasty. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

And so it goes for the Dodgers yet again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kershaw seeking $10 million through arbitration

As Andre Ethier and James Loney avoided the arbitration process on Tuesday, Clayton Kershaw did not. Coming off his monster season that earned him the NL's Cy Young Award, he has requested $10 million for the 2012 season, while the Dodgers countered with $6.5 million.

What's certain to happen? He'll definitely get a raise from the $500,000 he made last year. Seriously. Think about it: the best pitcher in the National League earned less than hundreds of other players, and nearly all of them weren't nearly as good. My how one year can change things.

It's hard to forget just how awesome Kershaw was last season... but here's a reminder anyway. He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 248 strikeouts in 233 1/3 innings pitched. Plus, he gave Dodger fans a reason to care, even in the dog days of summer when winning was few and far between. He was that good.

So now the question is whether or not he'll get what he wants and earn double-digit millions. I would have to think that would be a yes. Look at the facts: he'll be 24 at the start of the season, he's already won a Cy Young Award, and he's arguably the top lefty in baseball already. I know the Dodgers have this whole ownership issue going on, but is $10 million really that unreasonable? I don't think so.

Here's to hoping that Kershaw gets what he wants this year, and will soon get a long-term contract like Kemp did that will keep him in Dodger blue for years and years. Oh, and another Cy Young would be nice!

No arbitration for Ethier and Loney

The Dodgers avoided the arbitration process on Tuesday by resigning Andre Ethier and James to one-year deals. Ethier's deal is for $10.95 million, while Loney's is for $6.375 million. Both are raises from last season, as Ethier earned $9.25 million and Loney $4.875 million.

With both men coming off of down seasons last year, it was probably a good thing that neither of them tried to get more through arbitration. It would be hard to picture them making much more than they earned here. It's good for both sides to get this thing over with early.

Ethier matched his batting average from a year ago by hitting .292, but his power numbers dipped for the third straight year. In 2009, he hit 31 homers and 106 RBIs. In 2010, it was down to 23 and 82 as he battled a pinkie injury that derailed his season. Last year, it was down even further to 11 and 62, as a right knee injury ended his season in early September.

Considering the lack of power from everyone not named Matt Kemp last season, Ethier's power slip was even more magnified. When the season was all said and done, it was apparent that he tried to play through the knee pain, but it clearly didn't work. To his credit, he did earn his first career Gold Glove. With a healthier knee this upcoming season, he could be due for a big bounce back.

Loney had probably the strangest season of any Dodger last year. All you really need to do is look at his pre- and post-All-Star stats to see why. Before the break, he hit .268 with a .311 OBP, 4 homers, and 31 RBIs. After the break, he was up to .320 with a .380 OBP, 8 homers, and 34 RBIs. Considering he played in 91 games before the break and 67 after, those numbers become even more amazing.

Combine that second-half surge with the Dodgers' slashing of payroll, and that's why Loney's been brought back. What's never in doubt is his defense, as he's become very reliable at first. What the Dodgers have to hope for is that over-.300 average throughout the year, and not the guy who was hitting .251 in early August.

Assuming Kemp plays like an MVP candidate again, the Dodgers need Ethier and Loney to step up and give much better support if they have any hope of getting into the playoffs. How can that happen? Start with improving against lefties, as Ethier hit .220 and Loney .213. If those numbers are that poor again, you can forget about the Dodgers being a good offensive club.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kuroda moves on to the Yankees

If signing Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang didn't make it official, this will: Hiroki Kuroda has agreed to join the Yankees with a one-year, $10 million deal. It's contingent on him passing a physical, which will happen soon.

That, my friends, ends the Kuroda Era in LA.

First, a look back at Kuroda's time in Dodger blue. He pitched four years, collecting 114 starts. His record was subpar at 41-46, but his numbers certainly were not. He finished with a 3.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 523 strikeouts. Last season was his best one, as despite a 13-16 record, he had a career-best 202 innings, 3.07 ERA, and 161 strikeouts.

I have some mixed feelings on this one. I want to make clear that I am a big Kuroda fan, as he was quietly one of the best pitchers in the majors these last few years. But he was also one of the hottest names to be dealt at the trade deadline this past year, and he exercised his no-trade clause to stay. That was a noble gesture, as he loved pitching in LA, but when it came to resigning in the offseason, they couldn't afford him.

So instead of agreeing to ship off to a contender in the last year of his contract, he stays and denies the Dodgers a chance at a couple of prospects at least. I wasn't too crazy about that then, and I'm even less crazy about it now. What do the Dodgers have to show for his departure? Nothing, thanks to that damn no-trade clause.

Make no mistake, Kuroda will make the Yankees a better team, and he's a definite upgrade over the scrubs they've had in that rotation recently (along with Michael Pineda, who was also acquired). I do think, however, that he'll definitely miss pitching against the Padres and Giants when he's matched up with the Red Sox and Rays. Any pitcher would say that, but I'd be shocked it he puts up a low-3 ERA like he did last year. That's just reality.

In the end, I'm very appreciative for all of Kuroda's efforts the last four seasons. I am disappointed the Dodgers didn't get a chance to build for the future at the trade deadline, though. That does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.